The recent history of Star Wars is littered with cancelled video game titles. Disney took control of the franchise after a buyout of LucasArts, and the right to create games based on the sci-fi property was passed on to EA. As such, a number of titles already on the precipice met a seemingly inevitable fate. One of the most mourned of these was Star Wars 1313. The Boba Fett-focused title was finally cancelled after months of speculation when Disney let the trademark expire, leaving nothing more than some location concept art.
Star Wars 1313 is not the only Star Wars title to fall under the axe in recent months. A game based on Darth Maul was also cancelled after eight months in development, with alleged turmoil between LucasArts and developer Red Fly. Another casualty was Star Wars: Attack Squadrons, which was given the chop by Disney shortly after the completion of a closed beta. It may not have been much of a loss, though – the browser-based space combat title was looking less than impressive.
Now, details have arrived about a number of titles following on from one of the most well-loved Star Wars game series. Julian Eggebrecht, president of former game development studio Factor 5, has revealed that the studio was working on a series of Rogue Squadron games from the end of the original Xbox era onwards. Eggebrecht spoke with IGN on its Nintendo Voice Chat podcast and gave details about several failed attempts to update the X-Wing-based shooter series.
Initially, Factor 5 was brought on board by LucasArts to create a reworked Rogue Squadron trilogy for the original Xbox. The project would have been made up of Rogue Squadron, Rogue Leader, and Rebel Strike, remastered to work on the Xbox as a complete anthology. However, the title was cancelled when Factor 5 was only halfway done, with problems with the environment at LucasArts cited as a concern.
Instead, Factor 5 then moved to the Xbox 360. The jump from one generation to another led to Factor 5 bringing in more ambitious aims for a project, titled Star Wars Rogue Squadron: X-Wing versus Tie Fighter – including a multiplayer mode. Aiming at creating a massively multiplayer title, the game was going to focus on intense team space battles. “It was much more about groups, because it’s always Rogue Squadron, right?” said Eggebrecht.
With fears over the creation of a launch title, LucasArts once more cancelled the project. The game was then pitched to Sony as a PS3 launch title instead. Although it was rejected, with Sony explaining that they wanted more of an “internal” game as a launch title, Factor 5 took some of X-Wing versus Tie Fighter’s ideas on board and created Lair.
Factor 5 were given another chance to work on Rogue Squadron. Once Sony exclusivity wore off, the developer went back to that initial concept: the Rogue Squadron trilogy recreated for a new console generation, this time for Nintendo’s Wii. Using the old code from that early development, and given a new lease of life by the Wii MotionPlus, Factor 5 pushed on with a varied and intuitive control scheme. “For the flight sequences, you could, for example, choose to have the Mario Kart wheel to actually control your X-Wing, together with the balance board, which would control the pedals,” Eggebrecht explained. The title was also running at 60fps, which the Factor 5 president described as the “most impressive thing you would ever see” on the console.
Unfortunately, Factor 5 was yet again cursed by cancellation. The crash of 2008 was seen as a major cause of the title’s failure to launch, with two potential publishers going bankrupt and LucasArts suffering from financial issues themselves. Finally, the monetary issues proved too much for the studio, and the project was cancelled. “There is an artistic loss of that game,” said Eggebrecht. “I think everybody on the team agrees is the best work they’ve ever done.”
Factor 5 then folded in 2011, with some employees reforming as indie studio TouchFactor. In the end, the developer has left behind dreams of fans wondering what could have been. Let’s hope that the long-anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront reboot has a kinder fate. The game is set to launch close to the release Star Wars: Episode VII, and could help turn the tide of bad luck that seems to claim the Star Wars franchise.
We’d love to see the Rogue Squadron and X-Wing Alliance franchises return.